Why slow travel is the key to exquisite travel experiences in Australia
Image: Visit Victoria
What is slow travel?
Like the slow food movement, which emerged in Italy in the 1980s as a way to preserve regional fare, traditional cooking and local farming in the face of mass tourism, slow travel aims to support local customs and culture by putting the brakes on surface-level tourism and promoting more authentic interactions between a destination and its visitors.
The leisurely pace of slow travel encourages travellers to journey mindfully, pause for self-reflection, and deeply connect with the people and places we visit. By staying longer and getting around by foot or public transport, it's possible to get to know where locals eat, work and play, and to make sure our travel dollars support local eateries, enterprises and operators.
Image: Visit Victoria
Instead of heading to tourism hot spots, slow travellers seek out off-the beaten-track destinations and everyday experiences that foster joy and connection within local communities. A chess game in a local park, a festival celebrating ancient beliefs, a group of early-morning swimmers that gather on the beach to greet the dawn, a hole-in-the-wall restaurant open only on Wednesdays for dinner. Staying a while, observing local rituals, and taking the time to form connections with local people gives you the unique opportunity to discover – and even join in on – authentic experiences like these.
Now compare this approach to lavish resort holidays, environmentally harmful cruise ships, cookie-cutter stays at global hotel chains and flights from one overtouristed attraction to the next. It all sounds kind of crazy, doesn’t it?
When you fall in love with slow travel, seeing the world becomes more about moving, immersive experiences than simply travel for travel’s sake. Where once it was enough to tick off a list of must-visit places and post about them on social media, slow travellers want to explore a destination in depth – and may not even have a list at all.
If you're keen on joing the growing number of people embracing a more mindful way of travel – for their own benefit and that of the planet – your own backyard is a great place to start.
Tips for slow travel
The idea of slow travel might sound appealing, but how do you put it into practice? These general tips will get you started, and you can try them out before you even leave home.
Turn down the volume
Live streaming, music on demand, traffic noise, lawn mowers, barking dogs… No wonder it can be hard to relax. Travelling is an opportunity to do just that, though, so resist the urge to plug in your earphones. Instead, seek out remote places for silent hikes, choose the quiet carriage on city trains, or kick off your shoes and read a book in a sunny park. Your nervous system will thank you for it.
Take your time
Visiting an art gallery or museum is one of the best ways to get to know a destination’s history and culture, but it can be tempting to fly through without taking much in. Pleading not guilty to this one? See if you can describe a work of art in depth to a friend when you get home, and compare how long you spent in the gift shop at the end to the time you were immersed in the actual gallery or museum itself. The solution? Slow down and fully immerse yourself in one wing or exhibition rather than trying to see the whole thing in one go.
Slow travellers aren’t just observers, they’re participants. Sign up for a class or community-based tourism experience to learn how to make traditional dishes or crafts, or make a contribution while you travel by becoming a volunteer.
Take a wander
Sometimes the best plan is not to have a plan. Simply put on your walking shoes and see where your feet take you that day. The best travel memories are often the surprising, impactful or hilarious encounters you have when you least expect them – and that calls for a no-plan plan!
Slow travel in Australia
Image: Tourism Australia
This big, beautiful country of ours was made for slow travel. Distances between states and territories are huge, so it makes sense to spend a little longer in the locales you visit before moving on and approach your stop offs with the mindset of quality over quantity. Here's some tips for slow travel Down Under:
Learn about the traditional owners
It’s important to take the time to learn about the history of a place – and in Australia, this means starting with whose Country (traditional homeland of an Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander Nation) you’re on. A First Nations guided experience is an amazing way to discover more about the stories and traditions of a place and its people, and the connection they have to the land.
Indulge in great local food, drink and crafts
An abundance of good food and wine awaits the slow traveller across Australia, so seek out farmers’ markets, food and wine trails, and eco-minded wineries, restaurants and small businesses selling locally produced delights. Local businesses and markets are also the place to find artisan-made keepsakes, artwork and homewares to remind you of your travels.
Head off the beaten path
Visiting outback communities will reveal a slice of Aussie life you had no idea existed, while a guided hike, kayak trip or cycling tour will immerse you into some incredible landscapes you won’t find anywhere else. Connecting with nature and living in the moment are two of the many joyful side effects of slow travel.
Image: Tourism Australia
Opt for low-impact transport wherever possible, getting around under your own steam when you can or taking the next-best alternative (train or electric vehicle). Better yet, stay a while and get to know the place and its rhythms. Learn when the tides come and go, what time the sun sets, the best pub for a Sunday roast, and where the kangaroos graze each morning.
Immerse yourself in Australia's vibrant cities
More of an urban traveller? Cities are most rewarding when visited with the same slow-travel approach, and much of what you can see and do in Australia's largest cities are free. Find your tribe when you travel or expand your horizons and try something completely new – why not time your visit with a city’s arts and culture festival? Hobart’s Dark Mofo involves a nudie dip at sunrise in the dead of winter. If that’s not stepping out of your comfort zone, I don’t know what is.
Words: Joanna Tovia
Read next: How to stay happy and well on your travels
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